AMID public disdain against the continued special protection and treatment being given to detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, a key in unlocking the multi-billion pork barrel fund scam, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has pulled out the special action force (SAF) that has been protecting her.
Members of the PNP-Special Action Force (SAF) have been providing security for Napoles who has been detained at a police facility in Santa Rosa, Laguna in September 2013.
PNP public information officer, Chief Supt. Rueben Theodore Sindac confirmed on Friday the pull -out of SAF personnel as security detail and the transfer of Napoles security to regular police forces in the area.
The PNP official said that SAF personnel will be reassigned as augmentation for police units in Bicutan, Taguig City where members of breakaway Moro rebels involved in Zamboanga City siege are detained.
“The SAF personnel will be sent to Bicutan to augment the existing personnel there, they made the request for additional personnel,” Sindac said.
This, as Sen. Francis Escudero questioned the Department of Justice about giving Napoles a special facility, which he said, would send wrong signals to the people, especially the potential criminals who might think it good to steal big to get such a treatment.
Escudero, said that the continued detention of Napoles in a special facility would only encourage those who are thinking of similar crimes in the future.
Escudero asked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday why Napoles, the alleged mastermind of P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) controversy, still enjoys the comfort of a special cell facility despite being uncooperative with the government in ferreting out the truth.
“My problem here is quite simple. Those who have plundered the national coffers in billions get to stay in Santa Rosa or any hospital much to their comfort. Those whose crimes pale so much in comparison with Napoles—the cell phone snatchers and the street snatchers—languish in cramped and dingy jails,” Escudero said.
This situation, he said, is somewhat teaching our young ones that if they steal, they should steal big so that they would end up not in ordinary jails but in the comfort of special cells secured by a number of highly- trained police unit.
De Lima in responding to Escudero’s queries admitted that they are still hoping that Napoles, would still change her mind and agree to tell everything she knows about the scam, that is why they are hesitant to ask for her transfer to a regular jail.
Still uncertain if Napoles would ever open up, de Lima said there is a possibility that she might, once the Ombudsman files the case before the Sandiganbayan.
“She may be refusing to talk at present but what if she really wants to open up one of these days, or she is planning to talk next week, next month or in the near future we still don’t know,” de Lima explained.
Escudero, however, asked de Lima if she ever considered placing Napoles in a regular jail this could persuade her to talk and spill what she knows about this scam.
The senator theorized that Napoles could crack one she gets a taste of how decrepit it is to live in a regular jail.
“It’s just too much to bear that she gets to be treated so special with all the works of a special convoy whenever she goes out of Sta. Rosa. Not even the President parades on the street with those decoy vehicles, decoy convoy on regular days,” Escudero pointed out.
The government spends P5, 000 a day or P150, 000 a month for the VIP treatment for Napoles, who is also believed to have connections with politicians.
In a related development, Judge Marino de la Cruz of the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 22 on Friday gave Napoles and her co-accused five days, or on or before March 14, to file whether or not to issue an Asset Protection Order (APO).
De la Cruz also ordered the Office of the Solicitor General to submit its response to the petitions of the respondents.
Actually, there are 100 respondents, but only ten respondents sent their lawyers in yesterday’s hearing of the Provisional Asset Preservation Order, covering the bank accounts and properties implicated in the controversial P10-billion pork barrel scam perpetrated by Napoles.
De la Cruz was appalled by the low turn out of the respondents and their lawyers yesterday. Anticipating the deluge of respondents and lawyers, de la Cruz scheduled two hearings, one at 8 a.m. and another at 2 p.m.
Disappointed, the judge said the respondents who failed to attend yesterday’s hearing had practically waived their rights to oppose the issuance of APO.
Respondents who sent their lawyers were William Lim, Napoles and her immediate family members, Benhur Luy and his immediate family members, Evelyn de Leon, Hector Ang and two of his family members, Michael Ty, Raymund Estrella, Edgar and Patricia Tan, and three banks, namely United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), Philippine National Bank (PNB), and Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI).
Yesterday’s hearing stemmed from the February 26 court order against Napoles’ bank accounts, vehicles, properties and other assets.
The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) filed petition for forfeiture, after the Court of Appeals freeze order, good for six months, expired last month.
Atty. Isar Pepito of the Office of the Solicitor General said the government is confident that it will recover the monies and physical assets believed fruits of the pork barrel scam.
He added that the AMLC is still pursuing other assets of Napoles, which were not included in the first batch.
The AMLC clarified that the government is recovering only properties of Napoles, her immediate family members, and officers of the non-government organizations affiliated with her firm, including NGO assets.
Other well-known respondents who failed to send their lawyers were Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Zenaida Ducut and former congressman Rodolfo Plaza.
Included in the AMLAC list are bank accounts and insurance policies, 50 real properties duly titled and 16 vehicles, including a 2008 model of Porsche Cayenne under Napoles’s name.
Napoles owns also several properties in Makati, Taguig, Manila, Pasig, Kidapawan (Cotabato), Bocaue (Bulacan), Bayambang (Pangasinan), and Tagaytay City (Cavite), including codominiums in the name of NGOs, her firm JLN Corporation, or her children and husband.
In the 20-page order, de la Cruz said that “there is probable cause that the subject bank accounts, monetary instruments, motor vehicles and real properties are related to unlawful activities that may constitute plunder, bribery, which are unlawful activities or predicate crimes under Sec. 3 of RA 9160, which warrants the issuance of a Provisional Asset Preservation Order [PAPO].”
Under the order, “any transaction, transfer, removal, conversion, concealment or other disposition of the subject bank accounts, monetary instruments, motor vehicles and real properties, effective for a period of 20 days from the respective dates of service to the respondents or any person acting in their behalf and upon each covered bank accounts or monetary instruments in the banks or financial institutions” is prohibited.
The AMLC has examined companies connected with Napoles, including their bank accounts. These companies are Abundant Harvest For People’s Foundation Inc, Agricultura Para sa Magbubukid Foundation, Bukirin Tanglaw Foundation, Countrywide Agricultural and Rural Economic Development Foundation, A Smile Foundation, JCLN Global Properties Devt. Corp., JCLN Real Estate Consortium Inc., JLN Construction and Devt. Corp., JLN Corp. Jo-Christine Trading and ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp.
AMLC also alleged that Napoles has bank accounts in Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, Citibank, Bank of Philippine Islands, Land Bank of the Philippines, Banco De Oro, Insular Bank, Metrobank, United Coconut Planters Bank and Air Materiel Wing Inc.
With reports from Jimmy Pilapil and William Depasupil